I Know a Lot of Things

I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand

by Ann and Paul Rand (Chronicle Books, 2009; originially published in 1956.)

I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand

You might remember how much I love this pair’s Sparkle and Spin, and this one is just as playful and just as true. That case cover surprise is an a delight, and complementary-colored endpapers start this book with a bang.

I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand

Paul Rand’s graphic genius is so well-matched by the simple and spare words of his wife, Ann. The text and the pictures both glide through that magical reality of childhood. Things that might seem daunting to someone bested by time are small and accessible. Things that may seem obvious or forgettable are ripe for play and adventure.

I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand

It’s a reminder to slow down, listen, and watch. The world is built of wonderful things. The big picture is as beautiful as the details.

I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand

Here, the sentiment is the whole of this person. I’m not sure there’s an ending more perfect, not for kids or their grownups. There’s so much more to know, but what you carry with you can stay.

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Home Grown Books

Homegrown Books by Cecile Dyer and Kyla Ryman (Home Grown Books, 2014)

Homegrown Books Homegrown Books I’ve written before about how I’m a sucker for board books, but this new-to-me publisher has raised the board book bar. These books are both meaningful and beautiful, which is a touch balance to strike in a book so seemingly simple. This one, Dress Up, shows a series of cats with killer expressions donning all sorts of odds and ends. A fancy cat fastens a bow to one side, a dapper cat sports a vest. Mask! Scarf! Glasses! Cats with style, for sure.

Homegrown Books This board book is a second edition reprint, because it originally showed up in teensy paperback form as part of a 9-book Little Reader series, The Play Book Set.

Homegrown Books

Homegrown Books See Dress Up up there with the orange cover? The insides are similar, but the pictures are bordered with white space holding the words.

Nothing in these books is too cutesy, too precious, or too simple. The art is sophisticated, accessible, and challenges a little brain’s wonderings.

Homegrown Books Homegrown Books Kids need good art, and Home Grown Books is doing a bang up job fitting that bill. (Plus, any sax-playing hen is fine by me.)

Clever packaging includes tips on how to read with the bittiest in your family. Talk about the pictures! Make connections! Everyday concepts meet rich art. It’s a lovely thing.

Homegrown Books Homegrown Books

Eco-friendly and recycled paper to boot! Lots to love about these new books on the block. Find a babe, stat.

Here’s illustrator Cecile Dyer talking about watching the world, interacting with young readers and artists, and of course, these these tiny, book-shaped treasures.

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Ninja! and an interview with Arree Chung

Ninja! by Arree Chungby Arree Chung

published June 2014 by Henry Holt and Company, an imprint of Macmillan.

Friends, I’m so excited to have Arree Chung in this corner of the internet today. I met Arree last summer at SCBWI in Los Angeles, and am humbled every time I think about how we share an agent and a friendship. He’s an expert storyteller with a bright, animated style and a fresh perspective. Ninja! is his debut picture book, and it will be far from his last.

First, you should watch this short film. And here’s my confession. Arree sent this to me a number of weeks ago with the caveat that it was unreleased and not to share. Except: it was too awesome not to. So I showed it to my students, because single-digit-aged kids are pretty good at secrets and don’t have Twitter accounts anyway.

They loved it. And I mean L O V E D  I T. Each class, without fail, asked to watch it many, many times in a row. So we did.

Meet Maxwell, and then meet Arree.

breaker What has been the most surprising thing about this whole debut picture book thing?

The most surprising thing about the publishing process is how long it takes to actually bring a book to market (1.5 – 2 years).  My background is in games, where companies can publish with the click of a button and make updates via the internet.  The process gives me appreciation for the care that goes into the publishing process.  It also helps to have a great team of people to work with.  Everyone from your agent, publisher, editor and art director in making the book and then there’s publicity, marketing and sales folks that help in getting the book out. 1stCoverAn early cover design. An early cover design. Ninja_Revision_Notesrevision notes.

I’m fortunate to have a supportive publisher in Macmillan.  They have a great team of experts.  Each one helps you with a specific aspect of the publishing process.  I’ve learned so much.  I’m so grateful I’ve been in good hands.  I’ve worked hard to hold up my end of the deal and make something special.  With Ninja it was easy, because I loved it so much.

Who are your creative and/or literary heroes?

Oh, so many!

Authors:
Roald Dahl
E.B. White
Jack Gantos
Judy Blume
Jeff Kinney

Illustrators:
Russell Patterson
Chris Ware
Yuko Shimitzo

Author/Illustrators:
Shel Silverstien
Wolf Erlbruch
William Steig
Mo Willems
Peter Brown
Leo Lionni
Maurice Sendak
Ian Falconer
Jon Klassen
David Shannon
Bill Peet
Calef Brown

Comics:
Jim Lee
Scott McFarlane
Jeffrey Brown
Bill Watterson
Jim Davis
Charles Schulz

Animation/Film:
Brad Bird
John Lassetter
Guillermo Del Toro
Chris Sanders
Danny Boyle
Tim Burton
Nick Park (Wallace & Gromit)
Steven Spielberg
Hayao Miyazaki

Can you talk about the similarities and differences in animation and the picture book form?

I love both mediums for different reasons.  Both mediums can transport the reader into new worlds.  I love it when a book or movie captures my imagination and I am completely immersed in a world that has been built.  The world is invented but it feels familiar and the story resonates with honesty.  I hate it when a story is force feeding me a message and it feels like an infomercial or when a story rambles without a focus.  Storytelling is magical when it has both the imagination and heart and speaks to you directly and honestly.  A great story is so exhilarating.  There’s nothing in the world that feels like it.  I love both animation and picture books because they have the ability to create magic.

How they are different?  Well, I think the main difference is that film tends to be a passive experience.  The viewer is in a dream like state that watches the story unfold.  It’s like being suspended in a time capsule and you watch everything that happens.  You take the story in a more subliminal kind of way. NinjaCreepAway Spread14_15Books on the other hand I think are active experiences.  You as the reader actively interact with the words and pictures.  It’s like your brain is the film projector and is working to play the story.  Because of this, I think books are much more intimate experiences.  You go at your own pace.  You stop, question and wonder.  Sometimes you’re so engaged, you speed all the way through and sometimes you like to read slowly just because.  Readers engage books with their imaginations and a lot of the story is told in-between the words, the page turns and the illustrations whereas films are full experiences that use all the arts of composition, acting, music and visuals to put you in a state of suspension.

Both are magical and I love doing both so much.

Can you give us any behind-the-scenes information on how you created the short film? Did you get to know Maxwell differently in that format?

Yeah!  It was so thrilling to bring Maxwell to life.  I had a pretty good idea of who he is as a character after creating the book but actually seeing him move and casting Taylor Wong as Maxwell brought another whole dimension.

As for production, here’s a quick behind the scenes look of what it took to make the short film.  I plan on doing a much more in-depth look in a separate blog post.

We used 4 software tools: Photoshop, Flash, After Effects and Final Cut Pro.  The process was a highly collaborative effort between folks at MacMillan, myself and David Shovlin, the animator.  It was a ton of work to do but a ton of fun as well.ShortFilm_Process

In all, it took about 5 weeks of work.  David and I worked really hard on it and I’m really proud of what we created in a relatively short period of time.2013-09-09 23:23Where did Ninja! come from?

It’s been my dream to make my own picture books for a long time.  The first conception of Ninja came when I was in art school.  I jotted down “A boy goes creeping around the house dressed as a Ninja and causes trouble.”  That was probably in 2007 or so.

Maxwell_1st_CharacterSketchesNinja_Thumbnails        MaxwellScanNoPencil Ninja_Thumbnails        MaxwellScanNoPencil Ninja_earlySketches-1Early Ninja! thumbnails and character sketches.

In 2012, I decided to do the Illustrator Intensive at the SCBWI Summer Conference.  We were given an assignment to submit a story along with a manuscript, thumbnails, character sketches, and a finished illustration.  Up to that point, I had been writing stories for years but was stuck on many of them.  For the workshop we had to write down answers to the following questions:

WHO
WHAT is the dilemma?
WHERE does it take place?
HOW is the problem solved?

This really helped me a lot.  Previous to this, many of my stories didn’t have focus and wandered a lot.  Ninja was a big break through for me as a storyteller and I had lots of people who helped guide me through it.   I’m so thankful for Rubin, my agent, and Kate, my editor.  The more I worked on it, the more the world and character took shape and gained depth.  It was so much fun to make.

Do you remember any art you made as a kid? What was it?!

Yeah, I made a lot of ninja stars and origami.  I was also obsessed with Legos.  I loved to build cruiser space ships and large fortresses armed to the teeth.  Whenever my uncle bought us Legos, we would make the thing we were supposed to make and then tear it apart and then make what we wanted to make.  Making your own thing was much more fun.

I was a huge comic book reader and collector as well.  I bought all of the X-men, Spiderman, Spider-ham, Batman and Spawn comics.  I still buy comics.

I also really love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I used to record all of the episodes.  In fact, I used to press pause on the VCR and trace drawings of the Ninja Turtles by overlaying paper onto the TV.  At school, everyone thought I was the best drawer, but I never told anyone my technique til now!  Eventually I copied so many drawings I could draw it out of memory.  I tried to do the same technique with Transformers but that wasn’t nearly as successful because I didn’t understand perspective as at 12 year old.

And now what’s next for you?Ninja_GhostStoryI’ve got a lot of things I’m working on.  I have lots of Ninja stories to tell with Maxwell. (I’m so excited about all of them!)  One of them involves an old Chinese folktale involving ghosts!

I’m also illustrating two Potty Training books for kids that are hilarious.HowToPeeillustrations from How to Pee

I have lots of picture book stories I’m developing and I’m also writing a middle grade novel titled Ming Lee, All American.  Ming Lee chronicles my experiences growing up as an ABC (American Born Chinese).  It’s deeply personal and is funny in that Louis CK, embarrassing but honest kind of way.  I would describe it as Judy Blume meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Of course, it is its own thing that I am figuring out.  I have a sense of what I want it to be but you never know what it will be until you get there.

Ming_Lee_Cover MingLeeHairCut

breaker A huge thanks to Arree for this peek into the mind of a master craftsman. Be sure to get your hands on Ninja! this week!

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Book-Gifting Guide: For the Design Devotee

For the young reader, the old artist, and everyone in between. Here are a couple handfuls of spined-up art museums. Some have flaps and things to flip, some have acetate papers that carefully reveal things below, some are massive, some are mini. All are spectacular.

(I’m linking each book to its respective publisher. Consider shopping at your local bookstore or Indiebound. Happy reading!)

GiftGuide2013_One 1) Pantone Color Puzzles // by Tad Carpenter  ⏐⏐ Abrams Appleseed

2) One Night, Far From Here // by Julia Wauters  ⏐⏐  Flying Eye Books

3) Walk This World // by Lotta Nieminen ⏐⏐ Big Picture Press

4) Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas // by Philippe Coudray ⏐⏐  Toon Books

5) Jane, the Fox and Me // by Franny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault ⏐⏐  Groundwood Books

GiftGuide2013_Two 6) Maps // by Alexsandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski ⏐⏐ Big Picture Press

7) House Held Up By Trees // by Ted Kooser and Jon Klassen ⏐⏐ Candlewick Press

8) The Big Book of Art // by Hervé Tullet ⏐⏐ Phaidon

9) The Goods: Volume 1 // by McSweeney’s  ⏐⏐ Big Picture Press

10) Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design // by Chip Kidd  ⏐⏐ Workman

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You’re a Rude Pig, Bertie {book trailer}

This summer I got to work with the fantastic folks at NorthSouth Books to create a trailer for an upcoming release by Claudia Boldt, You’re a Rude Pig, Bertie!

Bertie is definitely a rude pig, but he’s also irresistible and will endear himself to you the second he reveals his true heart. And I adore Claudia Boldt’s work – a muted and restrained palette, unexpected shapes and proportions, and a charming cast of characters.

(I wrote a teensy bit about her previous book, Odd Dog, over at Design Mom, so what a thrill to create something for a creator you admire!)

Anyway. I love the result, and hope you love it, too!

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What do you think? Adorable, right? And super catchy. I guarantee that song will tag along with you the rest of the day – and you’re welcome!

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P.S. – I haven’t heard from the winners of the Sassy board books. Are you out there, Olivia De Hamilton and Sara Floyd? I’ll pick new winners on Friday if I don’t hear anything. Stay tuned!

Baby Journal: The Story of…

BabyJournalCover_191012

by Yasmin Smail

{published 2013, by Cicada Books}

A small departure from picture books on this blog, making room for a book celebrating tiny arrivals! If you visit the online home of Cicada Books, you might have to do some jaw-lifting. Their eye towards the visual is a unique voice, and their books reflect that.

And please. Stop a while at the Discovering Kings Cross pop-up book, cause whoa.

BabyJournal_300113-1

But this one! In this world of pinning and Instagramming and having cameras on our darn eyeglasses, do you think the physical art of baby book-making is dying?

I don’t know. But if I had a baby, this is how I would want to scrapbook all of their bitty things. Tangible! Messy! Lovely and dear.

BabyJournal_300113-23

Baby Journal is just that. A compact home for all of your firsts with a little love.

There are pages for filling in, pages with recipes and lullabies, and pages with pockets for anything you want to add. It’s bound with an elastic strap, so all of the special things stay tucked inside.

BabyJournal_300113-11

For handwriting? Or mini-pictures? Or thumbprints? It’s up to you.

BabyJournal_300113-25Yasmin Smail’s gorgeous colors and textures will beautifully frame the story of yours. Such a treasure!

BabyJournal_300113-39BabyJournal_300113-40

(I know. Adorable.) BabyJournal_300113-53 BabyJournal_300113-45       BabyJournal_300113-5

Baby shower coming up? Pair this with one of my favorite board books and you’ve got a fantastic gift for a new mama. Adorable analog memories!

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Design is a Dandelion

by Janice Lovoos

{published 1966, by Golden Gate Junior Books}

I was in Seattle a few weeks ago. You remember the library, right?

I went to Pike Place Market, because of course, but also because flying fish and dudes in galoshes are a spectacle worth checking out. And I also wanted to get up close and personal with some bluefin tuna eyeballs.

There’s a real reason for that, trust me. But they didn’t have any tuna, so this happened:  Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 11.51.46 AM

There’s not a real point to that story except that I adore that tweet (and those two Favoriters) and it’s what I did just before I wandered into Lamplight Books.

It’s like I stole something. Fifteen dollars? Sixty quarters? It still has that magical, musty smell of hidden secrets. And it was mine in a fraction of a split second. That fast.

Because…behold:

 I’m in love. From the texture of a porcupine, to the form of mountains and weeds, to the repetition inside a squash, design is everywhere.

Design is a Dandelion ends like this, with truth and a charge:

Design is everywhere. It is for everyone. All you have to do is to learn to see it. Open your eyes and take a big, long look.

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Pinwheel

{published 2013, by LB Kids/Little Brown Books for Young Readers}

Remember Salina Yoon and her heart-tangle-upper Penguin and Pinecone? Well, she’s back in a big way this week. Tomorrow, April 16th, she has two brand new books out in the world, and trust me: they are spectacular. Penguin’s back in a new adventure, Penguin on Vacation. He’s sick of all the snowy cold, and sets off on a beach adventure. Don’t miss it!

And then there’s this one. I got a sneak peek of Pinwheel and let me show you this thing!

Die cut cover, in the shape of a pinwheel. A hint at the ingenious things to come!

What you might not know about Salina is that she is a master of novelty board books. The engineering to make these books tactile and animated on top of just utter gorgeousness? Her brain. Her artistry. Brilliant.

Pinwheel’s pages have a dial on the edge of the page. Those bright triangles lead you in a twirling direction, and when you do, the magic happens. On this particular page, those scales shimmer and change colors as if you were under the sea with them, swimming into a different beam of light with each flick of your tail.

So here, the train’s lights alert you to its journey. And see her words? Simple, lyrical, and beautiful.

But then. Just when you think you understand how this book works, this happens. A carousel horse! Pops his head out of the page and bobs up and down, up and down, up and down – until you are ready to turn the page …

…where there’s a kite dancing in the wind. Of course there is!

Pinwheel is a knockout. {And no, I didn’t really mean that to be a die-cut pun, but hey why not?! It’s kinda a good one!}

Its design is the story. Pinwheel asks you to interact, discover, and enjoy – and it’s a pleasure from the first spin to the last.

And if you are like me, and can’t get enough of this little treat, check out Salina’s Kaleidoscope. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen in a novelty book, I’m sure of it.

And! Just so you don’t have to only take my word for it, huge hot-off-the-presses congratulations to Kaleidoscope, first place winner of the novelty category for the Book Industry Guild of New York’s 27th Annual New York Book Show.

And with that, I leave you to it. You have lots of reading to do.

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Carpe Read’em

PiBoIdMo is coming up, and you know what that means, right?

A BRAND NEW WARDROBE!

Well, and a brilliant brainstorm of 30-ish brand spanking new picture book ideas. But you definitely need a new tshirt to go with your empty notebook.

Thank you, 2012. We may not have hoverboards, but we do live in a world where Facebook statuses (statii?) can become tshirt designs.

And no, Tara and I are not making money on these shirts. If you purchase one (or a million) from CafePress, $3.00 will go directly to Reading Is Fundamental (RIF).

More styles and colors are available on CafePress, so, you know…CARPE READ’EM!

Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth

written by Emily Haynes, pictures by Sanjay Patel

{Please, please, please…if you live in San Francisco, GO SEE THEM at the Cartoon Art Musuem on October 4th. Please! For me.}

Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth is based on a legend in Hindu mythology, but this version has jawbreakers! And a mouse pal! And SPECTACULAR illustrations!

Spectacular is really an understatement. I don’t think I know a word that can contain how spectacfantasterrificawesome these pictures are.

Endpapers that look like blueprints and sketches set the tone for a fresh story, enhanced so beautifully by shape and line.

From the title page on, this book will knock you out graphically. You will see stars (shape!) and vibrating birdies (movement!) flitting around your brain.

Ok. Let me back up a minute. Do you know Darshana Khiani? You should. She reviews books on her blog and always shares gems. And SHE is a gem. We met at the LA SCBWI conference in 2011, but what we didn’t know is that we would bump into each other over and over again online this year and become fast friends. So cool. Darshana emailed me a couple of weeks ago and told me I had to stop, drop, and roll myself to this book ASAP.

I love that she thought I would love it. I love that she was right. And I love that she suggested doing a joint review on it today.

That’s right! More book bang for your buck! So be sure to head over to her place for more of Ganesha and Mr. Mouse.

So much hops off the pages of Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth that my brain hurts to know where to begin. From the title page up a few pictures, to the repeated circles on the illustration above, shape dominates the pages. It’s a smorgasbord of circles, squares, and triangles.

Oh, this page. After every handful of illustrations, your eyes land on a picture like this one. The bright colors quiet for a moment, and these particular pages are striking in their stark contrast. White text, white graphic elements, and one bold, rich color. There’s something about pacing here, and I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that happens, but aesthetically, the balance is just outstanding.

A story about a sweet tooth begs for a decadent color palette, and these hues are just plain tasty and delightful.

Get this book. (Listen to Darshana, even if you think I am bonkers. She has good taste.)